With the dawn of a new century, it looked like Mr. Clean's time might be up at Procter & Gamble Co.
The brand was declining fast in a category declining slowly. The 2000 launch of Mr. Clean Wipe-Ups was elbowed off retail shelves by a rival Clorox Co. wipes. "The prognosis was pretty negative," says Mr. Clean Brand Manager Bob Gilbreath.
But Chairman-CEO A.G. Lafley decided to give Mr. Clean another chance. Jorge Mesquita, president-global homecare, and Colleen Jay, VP-North American homecare, gave Mr. Clean license to tackle new categories. Mr. Gilbreath, 32, was there to turn the switch back on for innovation. He oversaw development of a radical expansion for the brand-the Mr. Clean AutoDry towel-free car wash kit. And he shepherded the launch of the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, launched in the U.S. only nine months after P&G discovered it in Japan.
Those launches have helped more than double sales of the brand in North America to more than $300 million, moving it close to $500 million globally. The Mr. Clean character was retooled and pitched in new outlets, including streaming video and videogames. "Senior management up to A.G., decided there are still a lot of reasons to keep the brand around," says Mr. Gilbreath, who left P&G in October to become chief market- ing strategist at P&G agency Bridge Worldwide, Cincinnati.